Book Review: Storm Front by John Sandford

Posted February 22, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review: Storm Front by John Sandford

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Storm Front by John Sandford
Series: Virgil Flowers #7
Genres: Detective, Mystery
on October 8, 2013
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

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Also in this series: MatchUp

In Israel, a man clutching a backpack searches desperately for a boat. In Minnesota, Virgil Flowers gets a message from Lucas Davenport: You're about to get a visitor. It's an Israeli cop, and she's chasing a man who's smuggled out an extraordinary relic — an ancient inscribed stone revealing startling details about the man known as King Solomon.

"Wait a minute," laughs Virgil. "Is this one of those mystical movie-plot deals? The secret artifact, the blockbuster revelation, the teams of murderous bad guys? Should I be boning up on my Bible verses?" He looks at the investigator. She's not laughing.

As it turns out, there are very bad men chasing the relic, and they don't care who's in the way or what they have to do to get it.

"They're crazies," she says.

"What kind of crazies?"

"Palestinian crazies, Syrian crazies, Egyptian crazies, maybe a couple of Israeli crazies. Turks. Some Americans, too, I suppose. Maybe the Pope."

Perhaps Virgil should start praying.

Also by this author: Rules of Prey, Shadow Prey, Eyes of Prey, Easy Prey, Chosen Prey, Invisible Prey, Phantom Prey, Wicked Prey, Gathering Prey, Dark of the Moon, Heat Lightning, Rough Country, Bad Blood, Shock Wave, Deadline, Extreme Prey, Escape Clause, The Fool's Run, Deep Freeze, The Empress File, Twisted Prey, Holy Ghost, Neon Prey, Bloody Genius, Masked Prey

Seventh in the Virgil Flowers detective mystery series and revolving around a roving detective in Minnesota.

My Take

It was an unexpected start with Elijah on a kibbutz with a totally and completely unexpected ending. It took me awhile at the end to process it all. Very clever, Sandford, you sneaky bugger.

It’s convoluted with potentially catastrophic fallout if the truth comes out about this stolen artifact. Sandford certainly does raise some questions in my mind that make me want to re-read certain sections of the Bible! The hypothesis Sandford puts forth about the copy errors that could have created this issue are extremely believable. And could create some big problems for Jesus.

That’s just the artifact. What makes things really interesting is Elijah Jones and his actions. It’s such a contrast with one’s image of a minister. Shoot-outs. Smuggling. Theft. Jones is not bad with a gun.

To offset the violence, there’s a spoof of specialty television shows whose hosts promote wild tales and crazier conspiracy theories and the lengths to which they’ll go to promote themselves. The international factor with the Turks is too funny as well while the tension between Sewickey and Bauer…well, prepare to LYAO. Nor did I expect to appreciate the Hezbollah representative, but, ahem, I can see where the corrupting influence of America is having its way with him. It’s those Bloody Marys and the Playboys

And it gets even better with the extremely odd “courtship” between Virgil and Ma, *much more laughter*.

”Sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.”


Ma is so grateful that Virgil isn’t ”the bashful sort”.

I did feel bad for Sewickey’s plight and his need for results. Then there’s Magda Jones and her sad plight. It’s too bad we can put dogs and cats down when they’re suffering, but we can’t do the same for ourselves.

Lucas Davenport is Virgil’s boss, but his interaction is generally one-liners as he gives Virgil an assignment and checks in with him.

”Tough, on-the-ball law enforcement, Virgil was proud to say, had forced Minnesota criminals to go back to stealing.”

Hmmm, Sandford tosses in an interesting bit on the difference between Turkish road layouts and Minnesota roads. It makes sense, and it sure feels like Sandford had to make a road trip. To. Um, make sure, lol. I reckon those Turks should have taken a short class on poisonous plants *more laughter*.

The Story

In the interests of international cooperation, Virgil teams up with Mossad to catch an artifacts thief.

Only, Virgil finds himself in deep with an artifact that could change religious history.

The Characters

Agent Virgil Flowers lives in Mankato and covers the southern end of Minnesota. He has a preference for fishing and writing articles for outdoor magazines…although he is branching out these days. He grew up a minister’s son, and that does have a bearing on his outlook. Johnson Johnson is his best friend, and a fishing buddy. Shirley is Johnson’s current girlfriend. Robbie is one of Virgil’s neighbors.

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) is…
…the state police for whom Virgie works under Lucas Davenport. Simon “Simple” Hamm and Bea Sawyer are crime scene techs. Sandy is Lucas’ part-time researcher, an absolute gem who has slept with Virgil. Haven’t all the ladies? Joe Morgenthaler will coach the landlord. Pat Golden is an assistant attorney general.

Mankato PD
Officers Jimmy, Paula, Shane Cobley, and Georgina all play a part. Detective Don Scott works the park shooting. Detectives Hall and Jack Golden are working with Ellen.

Derek Crawford is a local private detective. Max and Jane were the nurses on duty; Mark was the resident. Bud Anderson is a witness.

Sheriff departments
Frank Martin and Fred Jackson help with the manhunt.

The FBI is…
…very interested in two aspects of this case. Special Agent Louis Mallard is based in Washington D.C. and has become friends with Lucas (Easy Prey, 11; Chosen Prey, 12; Mortal Prey, 13; and, Hidden Prey, 15). Agents Rose Lincoln, Tom Hartley, and Wesley Moehl know all about Virgil’s past actions with Homeland Security and the DEA, *laughing*

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) is…
…the organization for whom Yael Aronov claims she works. The second Yael claims it too. Colonel Ohad Shachar is with the Israeli embassy.

Florence “Ma” Nobles, a.k.a., Frankie, is a brilliant hick of a woman and has her fingers, toes, and the whole family in on various criminal rackets. Rolf, Mateo, Tall Bear, Moses, and the very young (and very knowing) Sam are her five intra-ethnic fatherless boys. Helen and Hank McClane were her parents. Rick Nobles was her first husband.

The Reverend Professor Elijah Jones is an ordained Lutheran minister from Minnesota who knows Virgil’s dad and teaches in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Gustavus Adolphus College. His wife, Magda, has Alzheimer’s and is in a home. Dan and Ellen Case (she’s a highway engineer with the state Department of Transportation) are their children. Sugarman is an outdoorsy friend. Faculty members include Maicy, an assistant professor and Patricia Carlson.

Faraj “Raj” Awad is a Middle-Eastern flying student in Minnesota. The Party of God, a.k.a., Hezbollah, has sent a courier, Adabi al-Lubnani. Soroush “the Hatchet” Kazemi is a mujahid, a real killer. Max Kaar is a local Islamic limousine driver. He rents his place from Larry Swanson.

Timur “the Turk” Kaya, a Turkish terrorist with a delight in cutting off testicles, represents Burak Sahin, a collector of important artifacts. Professor John Sewickey specializes in Ancient Mysteries at the Center for Transubstantial Studies at the University of Texas in Austin. Tag Bauer is a “field archeologist” and host of The Bauer Crusade on PBS. He’s really playing to the hype with The Wanderer (his plane) and The Drifter (his yacht). Tal Zahavi hates whiners. Bart Kohl, a sleeper agent, got involved with a Mossad Interest Group so he could meet girls.

A dig near Beth Shean in Israel…
…is headed up by Professor Rafi Frankel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the Institute of Archeology. Elijah, Steve Phelps from Alabama, and Annabelle Johnson, a Gustavus Adolphus student, are some of the volunteer diggers. Roger Johnson is her son. The Jensens are Annabelle’s next-door neighbors with a key.

Gerta and Ricardo are a German couple sailing the Mediterranean, scavenging for jobs. Yigael Yadin is the most famous archeologist and Moeshe Gefen the most famous paleographer in Israel and both are/were good friends of Elijah’s. Yuli Gefen is Moeshe’s daughter with an autistic son, Moshe.

Dave Moss is accusing, and Barry Spurgeon is a really angry customer. Wendy is playing at the Coop (Rough Country, 3). Vivek Bhola is an assistant manager at the Downtown Inn while Arjun Sharma is the assistant manager at the Holiday Inn. Jayden Ethan is a reporter who will interview Sewickey. Kennedy is an earnest rental car clerk. Ruffe Ignace is a reporter with the Star-Tribune. Burton Familie is an auctioneer with information. Father James McConville at St. Agnes Church in St. Paul is another friend of Virgil’s dad.

A stele is a pillar erected by a conqueror that brags about what he’s done. A tel is a mound covering an ancient city. Siamun was a pharaoh back around 986 BCE.

The Cover and Title

The cover has a top half of a solid deep teal background with the author’s name in an embossed gold and white — the title is in the bottom half in an embossed orange. The bottom itself is a painterly image of a lone house in the distance with a meandering dirt road leading to it. There’s a storm with bright lightning touching down and raindrops being pushed up the windshield through which we’re looking.

The title is the disastrous potential that artifact has of stirring up a Storm Front throughout the world.

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